Within the MERGE Federal Excellence Cluster, the scientists are developing wood veneer-plastic composites, known as ‘veneer prepregs ’. They are cost-effective and easy to recycle; the regional wood species European beech and spruce are used as the raw material. The veneer is first pre-dried at approx. 80 degrees Celsius; it is then wet with a thermoplastic matrix. The scientists subsequently leave the impregnated veneer to cool under pressure at room temperature until it sets. The plastic then forms a layer in the outer vessels of the veneer. This means that the material continues to have a low density, and therefore weight.
The veneer composites are currently already being used in MERGE Up! , an electrically driven lightweight car, developed as a research project at Chemnitz University of Technology. In this car, the material is used to make the covers for an input system in the car’s center console and as exterior components for the side door. The veneer cover of the center console is incorporated in a newly developed hybrid laminate. By touching the veneer prepregs, the driver can control electronic applications in the vehicle.